In the first of a new series, Samantha Wong introduces the all-important theory of the five elements and reveals how you can put yourself in the command position
Formalised as an art and science over 3,000 years ago in China, feng shui’s aim is to improve quality of life. Feng means ‘wind’ and shui means ‘water,’ and we Chinese associate wind and water with good health, so if you get the feng shui in your home right, you can expect good things to follow.
Feng shui contains elements of various branches of study, including physics, philosophy, astronomy and astrology. It’s a complex body of knowledge that takes years to master but you don’t have to be an expert or own a luopan (a feng-shui compass with 24 directions marked on it) to start working it into your home and reaping the benefits.
The command position
The first thing you need to know is that according to feng shui everyone and everything is interconnected, and everything is filled with chi (energy). For this reason, the placement of yourself and objects within a room affects your wellbeing. One basic tip is that the bed, desk and stove need to be placed in the ‘command position’ – this is important because the bed represents you, the desk represents your career and the stove represents your wealth. When you are in these spaces, be sure that you can see the door without being directly in line with it – this puts you in the command position; you are in command of your life and you are receptive to positive outcomes.
Feng shui is all about mindfulness too – slowing down and noticing the details in your life and living space so that you can create harmony. Dusty corners represent areas of your life that are stagnant and ignored, so clean them up. Get rid of or fix any broken objects because they are obstacles in your life, causing stress that holds you back. And create space in your wardrobe. If it’s overstuffed, you’re giving out the message that your life is complete and you don’t need anything else.
We often intuitively know when something is not quite right in our homes, so work out where you feel uneasy and sit there, quieting the mind. You may be able to energise the space simply by moving things around, for instance placing an armchair in front of a window, but if that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to look to a core feng-shui principle, the theory of the five elements.
The five elements
Wood, fire, earth, metal and water – the five elements – are a big deal in feng shui. Simply put, feng shui works to balance these five natural elements in your home, and by extension in your life. You need to ensure that all five elements are present in each room and working harmoniously together. To achieve this in a living area, you might combine wood and metal furniture, light some candles (fire), install an aquarium (water) and place a potted plant (earth) in a corner. But you don’t have to think so literally – each element is represented by a specific colour (see the sidebar opposite), so colour-use is an easy and effective way to harmonise the five elements within your home.
By using colour to include all the elements in your decor, you can improve your quality of life, but there’s more to it than that. Each element is also associated with a specific life attribute – wood with vitality; fire with passion and recognition; earth with stability; metal with clarity and self-discipline; and water with tranquillity and wisdom – so upping the presence of a particular element in your home can bring you more of the attribute it represents. To go at it another way, if something is lacking in your life, you will likely see that the element it corresponds to is poorly represented in your decor.
Let’s say you lack stability and don’t take good enough care of yourself. Chances are you need more of the earth element (yellow, orange, and brown) in your home. If you’re looking for more clarity, self-discipline or structure, look to the metal element and surround yourself with grey, white, cream and metallic tones. Silver photo frames are a quick fix.
By calling on the element of water, you can invite tranquillity and wisdom into your life. Try sitting on a black cushion when you’re at your computer or painting a feature wall midnight blue. Wood energy, associated with the colour green, can help kickstart new beginnings and increase your vitality.
Finally, if you’re looking for passion or recognition, play around with red fire energy. Light some candles – fire is symbolised by real flames – or place red peonies in a favourite ase. Adopting a pet will also do the trick because having an animal in your home immediately fires things up.